Bristow, Richard (DNB00)

BRISTOW, RICHARD, D.D. (1538–1581), catholic divine, was born in 1538 at Worcester. 'Fortunæ mediocritas verâ nobilitate virtutis emersit' (Worthington, Vita Bristoï, 1). Having been instructed in grammar learning by Roger Goulburne, M.A., he matriculated in the university of Oxford, perhaps as a member of Exeter College. He took the degree of B.A. on 17 April 1559, and that of M.A., as a member of Christ Church, on 25 June 1562, being 'now in great renown for his oratory' (Wood, Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 161). At this period Bristow and Edmund Campion were 'the two brightest men of the university,' and upon this account were chosen to entertain Queen Elizabeth with a public disputation on the occasion of her visit to Oxford. This they did with great applause on 3 Sept. 1566 (Wood, Annals, ed. Gutch, ii. 159). About this time Bristow devoted himself to the study of divinity, and became so noted for his learning that Sir William Petre appointed him to one of his fellowships in Exeter College, to which he was admitted on 2 July 1567 (Boase, Register of Exeter Coll. 45). It is related that in a set disputation in the divinity school he put Laurence Humphrey, the regius professor, 'to a non-plus.'

At length, being convinced that he had erred in his religious opinions, he left the college in 1569 and proceeded to Louvain, where several learned catholics were residing. There he became acquainted with Dr. William Allen, who at once recognised his rare abilities and appointed him the first moderator or prefect of studies in his newly founded seminary at Douay. Bristow was always regarded by Allen as his 'right hand.' He was ordained at the Easter ordination held at Brussels in March 1572-3, being the first member of Douay College who entered the priesthood. Just before this (20 Jan. 1572-3) he had graduated as a licentiate of divinity in the university of Douay, and he was created a doctor in that faculty on 2 Aug. 1575. Meanwhile his mother and his whole family had gone over from England to Douay, viz. five children with a nephew and a niece; and also his uterine brother, Louis Vaughan, a layman, who being a good economist was employed for many years as house steward of the college. When Allen removed the seminary to Rheims (1578), he placed it under the care of Bristow, whose laborious life was passed in reading, teaching, and publishing books of controversy. 'He did great things for God's church,' says Pits, 'and he would have done still greater if bad health had not prevented him.' On 13 May 1581 he went to Spa on account of declining health. He returned on 26 July without having derived benefit from drinking the waters, and he was advised to try his native air. Accordingly, on 23 Sept. he set out for England, and soon after reaching the residence of Mr. Richard Bellamy, a catholic gentleman, at Harrow-on-the-Hill, Middlesex, he died there of consumption on 14 Oct. 1581 (Diaries of the English College, Douay, 183). His death was regarded as a severe loss to the catholic cause, for according to the character given of him in the college archives he might rival Allen in prudence, Campion in eloquence, Wright in theology, and Martin in languages (Dodd, Church Hist. ii. 60).

His works are:

  1. 'A Briefe Treatise of diuerse plaine and sure wayes to finde out the truthe in this doubtful and dangerous time of Heresie: conteyning sundry worthy Motiues vnto the Catholike faith, or considerations to moue a man to beleue the Catholikes and not the Heretikes,' Antwerp, 1574, 1599, 12mo. A third edition, entitled 'Motives inducing to the Catholike Faith,' was published [at Douay?] in 1641, 12mo. The 'Motives' elicited a reply from William Fulke, D.D., entitled 'A Retentive to stay good Christians in the true Faith & Religion, against the Motiues of Rich. Bristow,' 1580.
  2. 'Tabula in Summam Theologicam S. Thomæ Aquinatis,' 1579.
  3. 'A Reply to Will. Fulke, in Defense of M. D. Aliens Scroll of Articles, and Book of Purgatorie,' Louvain, 1580, 4to. Dr. Fulke soon brought out 'A reioynder to Bristows Replie in defence of Aliens Scrole of Articles and Booke of Purgatorie,' 1581.
  4. 'Demaundes to be proponed of Catholikes to the Heretics,' 8vo. Several times printed without place or date. This was answered in a book entitled 'To the Seminary Priests late come over, some like Gentlemen,' &c., London, 1592, 4to.
  5. A Defence of the Bull of Pope Pius V.
  6. Annotations on the Rheims translation of the New Testament, manuscript.
  7. 'Carmina Diversa,' manuscript.
  8. 'Richardi Bristoï Vigorniensis, eximii svo tempore Sacræ Theologiæ Doctoris & Professoris, Motiva omnibus Catholicæ Doctrinæ orthodoxis cultoribus pernecessaria; vt quæ singulas omnium ætatum ac præsentis maximè temporis hæreses funditùs extirpet: Romanæ autem Ecclesiæ auctoritatem fidemq. firmissimis argumentis stabiliat,' 2 vols. Atrebati (Arras), 1608, 4to. The second volume is entitled 'Antihæretica Motiva, cvnctis vnivs veræ atqve solivs salvtaris Christiano-Catholicæ Ecclesiæ Fidei & Religionis Orthodoxis cultoribus longè conducibilissima.' This book was translated into English by Thomas Worthington, who has prefixed a life of the author and also a compendium of the biography in Latin verse. It is a much larger treatise than the original English 'Motives.'
  9. 'Veritates aureæ S.R. ecclesiæ autoritatibus vet. patrum, &c.,' 1616, 4to. A posthumous work.

Besides writing the above works, he, in conjunction with Dr. William (afterwards cardinal) Allen, revised Gregory Martin's English translation of the Holy Scriptures, commonly known as the 'Douay Bible.'

[Life by Worthington, prefixed to the Motiva; Diaries of the English Coll. Douay, pp. xxix, xxxii, xxxvi, lxxiii, 141, 183, 270, 273, 274, and index; Letters and Memorials of Card. Allen; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), i. 482, and Fasti, i. 156, 161; Dodd's Church Hist. ii. 59; Pits, De Angliæ Scriptoribus, 779; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. 127; R. Simpson's Life of Campion, 11, 46, 93, 94, 204, 379; Fuller's Worthies (1662), Worcestershire, 176; Boase's Register of Exeter Coll. 45, 185, 208; J. Chambers's Biog. Illustr. of Worcestershire, 80; Morris's Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, 2nd ser. 57, 3rd ser. 110; Jessopp's One Generation of a Norfolk House, p. xv; Ames's Typogr. Antiq. (Herbert), 1059, 1071, 1148, 1635; Cat. Lib. Impress. Bibl. Bodl. i. 333; Cotton's Rhemes and Doway, 13; Fulke's Defence of the Translation of the Scriptures, ed. Hartshorne (Parker Soc.), pp. viii, ix, 15, 68, 76, 95 n.]

T. C.